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> Jade on the power and pressures of being an LGBT ally, Metro Article.
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post 20th June 2021, 11:02 AM
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I was just gonna put this in her discussion thread but thought it deserved it's own thread.

It may look long, but it's absolutely worth it.

Jade Thirlwall on the power and the pressure of being an LGBT ally:
"I'm gonna f*** up every now and again".

To me, a good ally is someone who is consistent in their efforts – there’s a difference between popping on a pride playlist or sprinkling yourself in rainbow glitter once a year and actually defending LGBT+ people against discrimination.

It means showing my LGBT+ fans that I support them wholeheartedly and am making a conscious effort to educate myself, raise awareness and show up whenever they need me to.

It would be wrong of me to benefit from the community as a musician without actually standing up and doing what I can to support.

As someone in the public eye, it’s important to make sure your efforts are not performative or opportunistic. I’m always working on my allyship and am very much aware that I’ve still got a lot of unlearning and learning to do.

There are too many what I call ‘dormant allies’, believing in equality but not really doing more than liking or reposting your LGBT+ mate’s content now and again. Imagine if that friend then saw you at the next march, or signing your name on the next petition fighting for their rights?

Being an ally is also about making a conscious effort to use the right language and pronouns, and I recently read a book by Glennon Doyle who spoke of her annoyance and disappointment of those who come out and are met with ‘We love you…no matter what’. I’d never thought of that expression like that before and it really struck a chord with me.

‘No matter what’ suggests you are flawed. Being LGBT+ is not a flaw. Altering your language and being conscious of creating a more comfortable environment for your LGBT+ family and friends is a good start.

Nobody is expecting you to suddenly know it all, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect ally. I’m still very much learning.

Even recently, after our Confetti music video I was confronted with the fact that although we made sure our video was incredibly inclusive, we hadn’t brought in any actual drag kings. Some were frustrated, and they had every right to be.

You can have the right intentions and still fall short. As an open ally I should have thought about that, and I hadn’t, and for that I apologise.

Since then I’ve been doing more research on drag king culture, because it’s definitely something I didn’t know enough about, whether that was because it isn’t as mainstream yet mixed with my own ignorance. But the point is we mess up, we apologise, we learn from it and we move forward with that knowledge.

Don’t let the fear of f**king up scare you off. And make sure you are speaking alongside the community, not for the community.

Growing up in a small Northern working-class town, some views were, and probably still are, quite ‘old fashioned’ and small-minded. I witnessed homophobia at an early age. It was a common thought particularly among men that it was wrong to be anything but heterosexual. I knew very early on I didn’t agree with this, but wasn’t educated or aware enough on how to combat it.

I did a lot of performing arts growing up and within that space I had many LGBT+ (mainly gay) friends. I’ve been a beard many a time let me tell you! But it was infuriating to see friends not feel like they could truly be themselves.

When I moved to London I felt incredibly lonely and like I didn’t fit in. It was my gay friends (mainly my friend and hairstylist, Aaron Carlo) who took me under their wing and into their world.

Walking into those gay bars or events like Sink The Pink, it was probably the first time I felt like I was in a space where everyone in that room was celebrated exactly as they are. It was like walking into a magical wonderland. I got it. I clicked with everyone.

My whole life I struggled with identity – being mixed race for me meant not feeling white enough, or black enough, or Arab enough. I was a ‘tomboy’ and very nerdy. I suppose on a personal level that maybe played a part in why I felt such a connection or understanding of why those spaces for the LGBT+ community are so important.

One of the most obvious examples of first realising Little Mix was having an effect in the community was that I couldn’t enter a gay bar without hearing a Little Mix song and watching numerous people break out into full choreo from our videos!

I spent the first few years of our career seeing this unfold and knowing the LGBT+ fan base were there, but it wasn’t until I got my own Instagram or started properly going through Twitter DMs that I realised a lot of our LGBT+ fans were reaching out to us on a daily basis saying how much our music meant to them.

I received a message from a boy in the Middle East who hadn’t come out because in his country homosexuality is illegal. His partner tragically took their own life and he said our music not only helped him get through it, but gave him the courage to start a new life somewhere else where he could be out and proud. There are countless other stories like theirs, which kind of kickstarted me into being a better ally.

Another standout moment would be when we performed in Dubai in 2019.

We were told numerous times to ‘abide by the rules’, which meant not promoting anything LGBT+ or too female-empowering (cut to us serving a four-part harmony to Salute). In my mind, we either didn’t go or we’d go and make a point.

When Secret Love Song came on, we performed it with the LGBT+ flag taking up the whole screen behind us. The crowd went wild, I could see fans crying and singing along in the audience and when we returned it was everywhere in the press.

I saw so many positive tweets and messages from the community. It made laying in our hotel rooms s**tting ourselves that we’d get arrested that night more than worth it.

It was through our fans and through my friends I realised I need to be doing more in my allyship.

"Don’t let the fear of f**king up scare you off. And make sure you are speaking alongside the community, not for the community"

One of the first steps in this was meeting with the team at Stonewall to help with my ally education and discussing how I could be using my platform to help them and in turn the community.

Right now, and during lockdown, I’d say my ally journey has been a lot of reading on LGBT+ history, donating to the right charities and raising awareness on current issues such as the conversion therapy ban and the fight for equality of trans lives.

Stonewall is facing media attacks for its trans-inclusive strategies and there is an alarming amount of seemingly increasing transphobia in the UK today and we need to be doing more to stand with the trans community.

Still, there is definitely a pressure I feel as someone in the public eye to constantly be saying and doing the right things, especially with cancel culture becoming more popular.

I s**t myself before most interviews now, on edge that the interviewer might be waiting for me to ‘slip up’ or I might say something that can be misconstrued. Sometimes what can be well understood talking to a journalist or a friend doesn’t always translate as well written down, which has definitely happened to me before.

There’ve been moments where I’ve (though well intentioned) said the wrong thing and had an army of Twitter warriors come at me. Don’t get me wrong, there are obviously more serious levels of f**king up that are worthy of a cancelling. But it was quite daunting to me to think that all of my previous allyship could be forgotten for not getting something right once.

When that’s happened to me before I’ve scared myself into thinking I should STFU and not say anything, but I have to remember that I am human, I’m going to f**k up now and again and as long as I’m continuing to educate myself to do better next time then that’s OK.

I’m never going to stop being an ally so I need to accept that there’ll be trickier moments along the way. I think that might be how some people may feel, like they’re scared to speak up as an ally in case they say the wrong thing and face backlash.

Just apologise to the people who need to be apologised to, and show that you’re doing what you can to do better and continue the good fight. Don’t burden the community with your guilt.

When it comes to the music industry, I’m definitely seeing a lot more LGBT+ artists come through and thrive, which is amazing. Labels, managements, distributors and so forth need to make sure they’re not just benefiting from LGBT+ artists but show they’re doing more to actually stand with them and create environments where those artists and their fans feel safe.

A lot of feedback I see from the community when coming to our shows is that they’re in a space where they feel completely free and accepted, which I love.

I get offered so many opportunities to do with LGBT+ based shows or deals and while it’s obviously flattering, I turn most of them down and suggest they give the gig to someone more worthy of that role. But really, I shouldn’t have to say that in the first place.

The fee for any job I do take that feels right for me but has come in as part of the community goes to LGBT+ charities. That’s not me blowing smoke up my own arse, I just think the more of us and big companies that do that, the better.

We need more artists, more visibility, more LGBT+ mainstream shows, more shows on LGBT+ history and more artists standing up as allies. We have huge platforms and such an influence on our fans – show them you’re standing by them.

I’ve seen insanely talented LGBT+ artist friends in the industry who are only recently getting the credit they deserve.

It’s amazing but it’s telling that it takes so long. It’s almost expected that it will be a tougher ride. We also need more understanding and action on the intersectionality between being LGBT+ and BAME. Racism exists in and out of the community and it would be great to see more and more companies in the industry doing more to combat that.

The more we see these shows like Drag Race on our screens, the more we can celebrate difference.

Ever since I was a little girl, my family would go to Benidorm and we’d watch these glamorous, hilarious Queens onstage; I was hooked. I grew up listening to and loving the big divas – Diana Ross (my fave), Cher, Shirley Bassey, and all the queens would emulate them.

I was amazed at their big wigs, glittery overdrawn make-up and fabulous outfits. They were like big dolls. Most importantly, they were unapologetically whoever the f**k they wanted to be.

As a shy girl who didn’t really understand why the world was telling me all the things I should be, I almost envied the queens but more than anything I adored them. Drag truly is an art form, and how incredible that every queen is different; there are so many different styles of drag and to me they symbolise courage and freedom of expression. Everything you envisioned your imaginary best friend to be, but it’s always been you.

There’s a reason why the younger generation are loving shows like Drag Race.

These kids can watch this show and not only be thoroughly entertained, but be inspired by these incredible people who are unapologetically themselves, sharing their touching stories and who create their own support systems and drag families around them.

Now and again I think of when I’d see those Queens in Benidorm, and at the end they’d always sing I Am What I Am as they removed their wigs and smudged their make up off, and all the dads would be up on their feet cheering for them, some emotional, like they were proud. But that love would stop when they’d go back home, back to their conditioned life where toxic heteronormative behaviour is the status quo.

Maybe if those same men saw drag culture on their screens they’d be more open to it becoming a part of their everyday life.

I’ll never forget marching with Stonewall at Manchester Pride. I joined them as part of their young campaigners programme, and beforehand we sat and talked about allyship and all the young people there asked me questions while sharing some of their stories.

We then began the march and I can’t explain the feeling and emotion watching these young people with so much passion, chanting and being cheered by the people they passed.

All of these kids had their own personal struggles and stories but in this environment, they felt safe and completely proud to just be them. I knew the history of Pride and why we were marching, but it was something else seeing what Pride really means first hand.

My advice for those who want to use their voice but aren’t sure how is, just do it hun. It’s really not a difficult task to stand up for communities that need you.

Change can happen quicker with allyship.
Click HERE to read the article on the Metro website to give it the traffic it needs.
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post 20th June 2021, 11:04 AM
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Sorry for the size of that image! tearsmile.gif

But what a powerful article. I feel like every time she speaks on LGBT+ there is always something new to take away from it. What an incredible piece.
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post 20th June 2021, 03:34 PM
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it was interesting hearing about the Dubai concert and that actual thought went into it and that they were genuinely scared after - that was a genuinely amazing thing they did and I'm so glad they went through with it
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post 21st June 2021, 12:18 PM
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She is amazing!
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post 21st June 2021, 07:34 PM
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QUOTE(jsweetxe @ Jun 20 2021, 04:34 PM) *
it was interesting hearing about the Dubai concert and that actual thought went into it and that they were genuinely scared after - that was a genuinely amazing thing they did and I'm so glad they went through with it
Agreed. The Dubai story really sticks out to me and it always has done tbh. I don't think people understand just how consequential something as simple as showing the pride flag could have been over there.

I'm so proud of them for doing that and risking it all!
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post 21st June 2021, 09:50 PM
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That was a thought-provoking read! I agree with her that it's important to be open to learning and growing from mistakes rather than shying away from important topics in the name of cancel culture. It was interesting for her to share such a recent example with the 'Confetti' video. The girls taking a stance in Dubai was incredible... everything about them makes me root so hard!
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